Work related cancer risks may have been underestimated
Adrian Budgen, a leading lawyer in asbestos related diseases at law firm Irwin Mitchell is calling for more vigorous controls by the Government's Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after a report, published by Stirling University's Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group claimed that the latest action plan by the HSE into workplace cancers showed shocking complacency and suggests that the Government body is not taking the UK work cancer epidemic seriously.
The report, entitled Burying the Evidence, claims that work-related cancers will claim thousands of lives each year for a further working generation something, the report claims, the HSE grossly underestimates.
The HSE's action plan was revealed at a London seminar on 25-26 June 2007. The report claims that the HSE omits a range of occupational cancers and excludes entirely some of the most high risk groups of workers.
Work related cancer lawyer comments
Mr Budgen the head of Irwin Mitchells Industrial Diseases Group said: "We deal with many cancer related workplace illnesses every week and the immense pressure it puts on our clients and their families is tremendous. It is well known that if employers put the correct health and safety procedures into place then workplace illnesses would be greatly reduced. The HSE need to give the whole picture of the risks to workers if we are ever to win the fight in protecting innocent workers from carcinogens in the workplace."
The report, by Professors Andrew Watterson and Rory ONeill of Stirling University's Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group says the HSE are burying the evidence of cancer related deaths in the workplace.
Work related cancers claim thousands of lives each year and the report states that the HSE has neither the resources nor the strategy to tackle the workplace carcinogen exposures killing at least 12,000 people each year.
Professor Watterson states in the report that the HSE's evaluations on cancer causing substances including benzene, cadmium, diesel exhaust and wood dust are error-ridden, inadequate and outdated. Plus whole categories of workers known to be at a high risk are ignored and the report states that the HSE cannot continue to neglect the risk to women.
The report states that the HSE does not take breast cancer into consideration, which is the major occupational and environmental cancer risk for women.
The report put the cost to the UK of occupational cancer deaths at between £29.5bn and £59bn a year. Preventing just 100 of these deaths a year would more than offset the entire annual HSE budget.
The report states that only a small proportion of industrial chemicals have been tested thoroughly for chronic health effects. A new policy is to be put in force to wean companies onto safer alternative substances and processes. These approaches have worked well elsewhere, and have been supported by both workplace and environmental health advocates and industry.
Work related cancer - compensation claims
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